Budget Cuts Keep Cook Islands Group From Attending Arts Festival

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$81,000 less allocated to ministry budget for 2012

By Rachel Reeves

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 3, 2012) – The Cook Islands Voyaging Society is attending the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands, but due to budgetary constraints the Ministry of Cultural Development will not be sending any other delegation to Honiara.

Secretary for culture Sonny Williams confirmed this week that the vaka voyagers will be the only contingent representing the Cook Islands at the major regional festival.

"The current budget cuts forced us to prioritize and prevented us from sending a cultural group like past festivals," he said.

Last year, in the supplementary budget the ministry received a net operating appropriation of NZ$787,700 [US$633,358]. In this year’s budget the ministry received NZ$686,683 [US$552,134].

Culture was, in the recent Budget, allocated an extra NZ$130,000 [US$104,528] to send a team to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in London last month.

Williams said that some local artists contacted the ministry about attending, and he told them that he would accredit them with organizers in Honiara as soon as they confirmed travel plans.

"To date there has been no more interest."

Other than the Cook Islands, the only countries not sending official contingents are Tonga, the Northern Mariana Islands and Federated States of Micronesia.

More than 3,000 artists and cultural practitioners from 23 other Pacific countries – American Samoa, Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna – are attending. The Festival of Pacific Arts is the largest and best-known event focused on the joining of Pacific cultures. It is held every four years.

The festival officially kicked off on Sunday and spans two weeks.

The voyagers aboard vaka Marumaru Atua arrived in Honiara on Sunday.

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